Cape of storms: Surveying and rethinking popular resistance in the eighteenth-century Cape colony
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In this article I provide a broad overview of resistance at the Cape under the Dutch East India Company (VOC) undertaken by the multiracial and multiethnic popular classes (low-ranking Company servants including soldiers and sailors, slaves and indigenous Khoesan labourers). I identify and examine some of the main forms of protest including: desertion and the creation of maroon communities; arson; threats against and assault of masters; and collective insurgency comprising rebellions, mutiny and strikes. Questioning established approaches in the literature which emphasise social divisions amongst the popular classes – including along racial and ethnic lines – as well as the limits and weakness of popular protest, this article demonstrates that the popular classes at the Cape developed a rich and varied tradition of “direct action”. The discussion reveals that this was often overt and collective, and sometimes drew sections of the Cape’s popular classes together across divisions. It was also informed by alternative conceptions of morality and justice.